By David Mugabe
KAMPALA - The tourism master plan, a document that will lay out the industry’s operational blueprint for the next decade, will be launched on September 27.
What will remain after this launch, according to the sector minister Maria Mutagamba, is coordinated implementation of the plan for a sector that is showing all the signs of full recovery after years of underperformance.
The launch of the 10-year master plan will follow the weekend’s launch of the Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) strategic masterplan and the Tourism Sector Working Group.
The working group will constitute all the sectors whose activities affect tourism in one way or another like UIA, roads, KCCA, while UTA’s strategic plan will comprise all the action plans of the tourism private sector in the next five years.
The three developments will signal the completion of a process that private sector has blamed for government’s reluctance to pump money in one of the most promising sectors.
“Tourism has the greatest potential of making a difference. To promote it, there should be love for it, discipline and teamwork,” said Mutagamba.
Uganda is known for her Mountain Gorillas, which are tucked away in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The sector contributed 9% to the overall economic out of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and also contributed the largest share of foreign exchange earnings, surpassing the traditional fish and coffee.
Stephen Asiimwe, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) chief, again emphasized at the strategic plan’s launch that the sector is everybody’s business and there should be unity.
On his part, UTA chairman Herbert Byaruhanga hailed the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the trainings on corporate governance and product packaging.
A mountain climber treks up Mt. Muhavura in Kisoro
But Minister Mutagamba challenged UTA to establish a research desk so that information is synchronized.
During the sector working group launch, Joseph Muvawala, the executive director of National Planning Authority (NPA) noted that it is critical that everybody is on board and the sector working group is institutionalized.
“It is critical that the sector seizes the opportunity now. There are instances that the minister is not aware of what the P.S. is saying,” noted Muvawala. He also cautioned government against accepting technical assistance that is not demand-driven.
But Mutagamba acknowledged that marketing is yet to hit full peak, while products are still raw and mostly skewed towards wildlife. On the poor state of the roads in some of the traditional products, Mutagamba promised more action.
UWA’s budget has increased from sh51billion to sh72billion and Mutagamba says the conservation agency tasked with improving park infrastructure must do more.
Tourists take a dip in the pool at Apoka Lodge with a spectular backdrop of relief, fauna and flora
The major highways across the country have vastly improved in the last six years across the country. Even the Karamoja region that hosts the yet to be explored Kidepo national park is being fixed.
But link roads off the highway and into the national parks are broken down which has meant that for the lucrative mountain gorilla tracking, tourists have sometimes had to travel to Rwanda.
“We must have the pragmatism to go forward, she said, adding: “countries around us are benefiting even on opportunities that are in Uganda.”
Mutagamba cautioned the industry to seek harmony and avoid infighting – a scenario that has sometimes seen policy agents fight other agencies like UTB.
“Let us not be seen in competition, let us synergize each other to take advantage of the opportunities,” said the minister.
To avoid continuous infighting especially with agencies not respecting their mandate, she said the industry has resolved to meet monthly.